We speak to Ofer Cassif, an Israeli Jewish Knesset member with the Hadash-Ta’al coalition, about Hamas’ surprise attack and Israel’s response. Cassif condemns the violence and killing of civilians “on both sides,” adding that both “Israelis and Palestinians pay the price of the arrogant, criminal, ongoing occupation that Israel refuses to end.” He then calls for an immediate end to occupation and of Israel’s “fascist subjugation” of Palestinians, an act which he says will “also liberate the Israelis.”
AMY GOODMAN: I want to bring a Knesset member into this conversation. And this may be unusual in U.S. television to be joined by the leading Palestinian human rights lawyer in Gaza, Raji Sourani, and to also bring in Ofer Cassif, a member of the Israeli Knesset. Ofer, as you listened to Raji speak from Gaza and, before that, Orly Noy, the board chair of B’Tselem, the human rights organization — Ofer Cassif is a member of the Knesset with the Hadash-Ta’al coalition. You were born in Rishon LeZion, which was hit by rocket fire, Hamas rocket fire, on Saturday. Can you respond to what’s happening right now and the decision of the prime minister of Israel and the Cabinet to declare war on Hamas?
OFER CASSIF: Thank you for hosting me. And I would like to express my gratitude for the former speaker, Orly Noy, who’s a very good friend of mine. And, Raji, I wish you, Raji and all of you, security, peace and health, of course.
First of all, allow me to begin with some personal statements. My family lives in Israel. I’m at the moment in Mexico, before this war began, in a conference, in an international conference of leftist parties, including a delegation from Palestine. And we also had a press conference together, the Palestinian delegation and myself, because we share the ideas against the occupation and against war. I must say that, unfortunately, two days ago, I got a WhatsApp message from a very good friend of mine, who was hiding with her husband in the kibbutz. And she told me she was very afraid and she could hear the Hamas fighters outside. Unfortunately, those were probably the last words she ever wrote, because she was murdered with her husband just after she sent me that message — a very good friend of mine who was also against the occupation, a voter with our party. What I’m trying to say is that innocent people, innocent civilians on both sides, Israelis and Palestinians, pay the price of the arrogant, criminal, ongoing occupation that Israel refuses to end.
And I want to say something very, very clear and very, very blunt. Nothing, absolutely nothing, justify — can justify or legitimize the carnage that Hamas carried out in the towns and kibbutzim and the villages in the southern of Israel. Nothing can justify it. It is appalling. And even the occupation crimes, the crimes that Israel is guilty of, crimes of occupation, apartheid, ethnic cleansing and the Nakba, those, either, cannot justify such carnage. At the same time, nothing, and absolutely nothing, can justify the massacre that the Israelis carries out now in Gaza, not even the crimes of Hamas.
So, what I would like to say, in the bottom line, following what Orly and Raji said — and I totally agree with them — the Palestinians deserve their rights. They deserve their national and individual rights. They reserve their rights to be realized, the right of self-determination, to enjoy their own independent sovereign state, their own government, their freedom of movement. They deserve to live in peace and security without the daily pogroms by fascist settlers under the auspices of the occupation forces and the encouragement of this fascist government of Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israelis deserve peace and security. They deserve to live in a state which doesn’t occupy, which doesn’t oppress, a state whose government is not a fascist and racist one.
And I would like to conclude, if I may, by saying and by taking the whole issue into and explaining it within a political frame. Israel wanted this violence. In 2017, Smotrich, who was then a member of the Knesset, but at the moment, unfortunately, this racist thug is a minister, a minister of finance, but, as well, minister within the Defense Ministry, he published six years ago — and it is explicit. You can read it. I mean, you can google and read it. It was entitled the “Subjugation Plan,” which boils down to three. First, the Palestinian Occupied Territories should be annexed to Israel as a whole, without granting basic rights to the Palestinians. Second, those Palestinians who do not agree to live under this subjugation are going to be expelled from their homeland. And third, those Palestinians who are going to resist are going to be killed. What we see now, and the coup, by the way, that the government of Israel has been carrying out within Israel, all of those are means to that goal. The goal is to realize this horrific, racist, colonialist, fascist plan of Smotrich’s. And the attack on Gaza is part of it. They use the terrible, horrifying, unacceptable carnage in the struggle of Israel as an excuse to attack Gaza as part of the realization of this fascist subjugation plan.
And we should stand together, join forces. All peace lovers, Palestinians and Israelis, Arabs, Jews, and the international community, must stand together and join forces to say to Israel, “You are going to end the occupation now. You are going to end the occupation. The Palestinians must be liberated.” The liberation of the Palestinian people is a just cause. It will also liberate the Israelis from the occupation, because although the plan — of course, the Palestinians are the victims primarily, but the Israelis are victims of the occupation, as well, as we just saw two days ago. So we must push and put the pressure on the government to end it. It’s up to the international community. It’s up to us to act together against all violence, in Gaza, in West Bank and in Israel.
AMY GOODMAN: Ofer Cassif, we’re going to turn now to the leading Palestinian American professor, Columbia University, Rashid Khalid in a moment. We have to break. Ofer Cassif is a Knesset member in the Israeli parliament with the Hadash-Ta’al coalition. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back in 30 seconds.